Offensive woes finally catch up to the Colts
The Colts' offense has struggled for much of the season. They have averaged just 20.4 points per game, which would be the lowest in a season since 2011 - and the second lowest total in the past 17 seasons. They have not been able to get any sort of consistency going offensively and it has been at its worst in the past few weeks. Against the Steelers and the Jaguars, many people overlooked it because the Colts gave up 96 points total. On Sunday, those offensive woes caught up to the Colts. In their past three games, the Colts have averaged just 12 points, 14 first downs, and 250.7 yards per game, have converted just 25.8% of third downs, have turned the ball over seven times, and have given up 11 sacks. On Sunday, the Colts simply needed 17 points to win the game - and they couldn't get that, despite several opportunities to win in the fourth quarter. There was a lot that went wrong in the Colts' 16-10 loss to the Texans, but nothing was more glaring than the offensive struggles. To be fair, Matt Hasselbeck played well in his first four starts of the season, but the last three games have been rough. That's what happens when an offense counts on their backup for an extended period of time, but the offense has been absolutely awful for the past several weeks. On Sunday, it was at its worst - amassing just 190 yards and scoring just ten points. There's a reason the Colts are 6-8 and there's a reason why they're one of the ugliest teams to watch in the NFL - and, as crazy as it is to believe, it starts with their offense. That was absolutely the case on Sunday, as in the biggest game of the year, the offense really didn't show up.
Special teams regain their special form
After the Colts lost to the Texans on Sunday and their playoff hopes took a major hit, it's worthwhile to point out at least one positive: the special teams unit regained their form and played well on Sunday, continuing an impressive season for two of the league's best specialists. Pat McAfee punted seven times on Sunday, averaging 41.1 yards per punt but pinning five of them inside the Texans' 20 yard line. That's the second-highest total for a single game in his career, topped only by six punts pinned inside the 20 in a game in 2013. McAfee continued his Pro Bowl form, and when the 2015 Pro Bowl roster is announced on Tuesday night, McAfee should absolutely be going to his second straight one. He was the team's best player on Sunday and, to be honest, he has been their best player for much of the season. One of the only players who could make a claim to that besides McAfee this season, though, is Adam Vinatieri. The kicker missed his first two attempts of the season but has since hit 21 in a row, including his only attempt on Sunday. With the offense struggling, Vinatieri has been the only consistent source of points. Then on Sunday, the Colts added an aspect through the return game. Quan Bray returned three kicks for 80 yards (a 26.7 average) and four punts for 67 yards (a 16.8 average), providing a huge spark in the return game. "A very, very courageous guy. He's a playmaker," Chuck Pagano said on Sunday after the game. "He's got that ability and our guys saw that in him early on, all the way back to OTAs and training camp and that's why we went down that road when we went down it to bring him up. He had opportunities and he gave us great returns, he gave us great energy. He lifted this whole team literally by himself for a period of time there. Just a fantastic job by him. He's a tough, tough kid. He's a talented kid. He's a courageous guy." The Colts offense was nearly non-existent on Sunday, but at least their special teams unit came through. It wasn't enough to win the game, but it was the biggest positive from the game for the Colts.
Major changes are coming soon
All the loss means for Chuck Pagano is that the Colts will move on a week earlier than they otherwise would have - now it'll happen after the regular season rather than after the Wild Card round. Let's be entirely clear on this point: I see no way that Chuck Pagano stays, and the reason I'm not making a huge deal about it right now is that I've said the same for much of the season. I've thought for a long time that the Colts need to clean house, and the more the season goes on the more likely that is. Do you remember discussing this team before the season? At that time, with Pagano entering a lame duck year, many were wondering about his future. At the time it felt silly even saying it, but it was clear that if the Colts missed the playoffs Pagano would be gone. At the time, it seemed almost impossible. Now, it's looking like reality. So it's almost certain that the Colts will be taking part in Black Monday and will part ways with Chuck Pagano after the season. It is also no secret that I think that Ryan Grigson should be fired as well, as I think the Colts need to clean house and I don't think firing only Pagano will solve this team's issues. But Grigson's fate is much less certain at this point. Either way, major, major changes are coming to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. So if you're tired of the Ryan Grigson/Chuck Pagano era in Indianapolis (and, from what I've seen, most of you are), just know that in two more weeks, things will begin to look different - for better or for worse (and that goes beyond just the GM and head coach).